July 8, 2016: Judicial Watch asks to depose Clinton and two others in a civil suit.

Clarence Finney (Credit: CSpan)

Clarence Finney (Credit: CSpan)

Judicial Watch files a motion to depose Clinton as part a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit relating to Clinton’s emails. US District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered six of Clinton’s former aides to be deposed, and left open the possibility that Clinton could be deposed later, depending on the answers given by the aides.  All six finished their depositions by the end of June 2016.

Judicial Watch argues it has “attempted to obtain as much evidence as possible from other State Department officials, but Secretary Clinton is an indispensable witness and significant questions remain, including why records management officials apparently had no knowledge of [her email] system when so many other officials used the system to communicate with her. Consequently, Secretary Clinton’s deposition is necessary.”

Additionally, Judicial Watch is asking to depose two other former Clinton aides who had knowledge of Clinton’s private server, John Bentel and Clarence Finney. They also want to depose Clinton in a similar lawsuit presided by Judge Royce Lamberth.

Sullivan announces that the motion will be argued on July 18, 2016. (LawNewz, 7/8/2016)

July 8, 2016: Clinton refuses to say if she’ll cooperate with a renewed State Department investigation.

Clinton appears with Wolf Blitzer on July 8, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Clinton appears with Wolf Blitzer on July 8, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Clinton is interviewed by CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer. The State Department suspended an investigation into Clinton’s email because the FBI investigation took precedence. Now that the FBI investigation has finished, the State investigation has resumed.

Blitzer asks Clinton, “Will you cooperate with this new State Department investigation? Because I know you didn’t cooperate with the inspector general of the State Department in his investigation.”

Clinton replies, “Well, there was a Justice Department [and FBI] investigation going on at the time. And, of course, I fully cooperated with that.”

Blitzer repeats the question multiple times, since that answer is a deflection, but Clinton still doesn’t give a clear answer.

This new State investigation is not run by State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who ran the investigation mentioned by Blitzer. Not only did Clinton fail to cooperate with that investigation, but nine of her former top aides didn’t cooperate either. (McClatchy Newspapers, 7/8/2016)

July 8, 2016: Clinton blames other government officials for the classified information stored on her private server.

Wolf Blitzer (Credit: CNN)

Wolf Blitzer (Credit: CNN)

Clinton previously claimed she hadn’t sent or received any classified information via email, or that none of the emails contained information that was classified when they were sent. On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey stated that over 100 emails contained information that was classified when Clinton sent or received them.

As a result, when she is asked about this by CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer, she changes her account again. “I think there are about 300 people in the government — mostly in the State Department but in other high positions in the government — with whom I emailed over the course of four years. They, I believe, did not believe they were sending any material that was classified.”

Blitzer notes that Comey said Clinton and her aides “should have known” that her emails were not secure. He asks Clinton, “Should you have known better?”

Clinton avoids a direct answer, and again blames other officials. “I just believe that the material that was being communicated by professionals, many with years of handling sensitive classified material, they did not believe that it was. I did not have a basis for second-guessing their conclusion, and these were not marked.”

Clinton also says that she now realizes her use of a private server was “the wrong choice.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 7/8/2016)

She makes very similar comments which blames other officials in various interviews given on the same day. The Washington Post comments, “The references to other government officials… represent a new line of defense in the long public debate over an issue that has led many voters to say they do not trust her.” (The Washington Post, 7/8/2016)

July 8, 2016: Clinton denies that she was “extremely careless” and says there’s no reason to believe that hackers got hold of her emails.

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Clinton appears with MSNBC’s Lester Holt on July 8, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

When asked to respond to FBI Director James Comey’s July 5, 2016, comment that she had been “extremely careless” with highly classified material, Clinton says, “Well, I think the director clarified that comment to some extent, pointing out that some of what had been thought to be classified apparently was not.”

Comey also said that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.” But Clinton responds, “I think he was speculating. But if you go by the evidence, there is no evidence that the system was breached or hacked successfully.  And I think that what’s important here is to follow the evidence.” (The New York Times, 7/8/2016)

July 11, 2016: Paul Ryan’s attempt to block Clinton from getting intelligence briefings is denied.

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James Clapper (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

A request from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) to prevent Clinton from receiving intelligence briefings after the late July 2016 Democratic National Convention is denied.

Just a few days after Ryan made the request, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tells Ryan in a letter  that he “does not intend to withhold briefings from any officially nominated, eligible candidate. … Nominees for president and vice president receive these briefings by virtue of their status as candidates, and do not require separate security clearances before the briefings. Briefings for the candidates will be provided on an even-handed non-partisan basis.”

The briefings given both major party candidates are intended to prepare them with the information they’ll need to run the country if they win the general election.

Ryan made the request after FBI Director James Comey said that Clinton and her aides had been “extremely careless” handling highly classified intelligence. Ryan wrote in the request, “There is no legal requirement for you to provide Secretary Clinton with classified information, and it would send the wrong signal to all those charged with safeguarding our nation’s secrets if you choose to provide her access to this information despite the FBI’s findings.” (CNN, 7/11/2016)

July 11, 2016: A majority of Americans think Clinton should be indicted over her emails.

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ABC News / Washington Post graphic of the poll they conducted on July 11, 2016 (Credit: ABC News)

According to an ABC News / Washington Post poll, 56 percent disapprove of FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation not to indict Clinton, while just 35 percent approve. Very similar numbers agree or disagree that this worries them about how she might act if she is elected president.

However, most voters have already made up their minds about her: Only 28 percent say her email controversy makes them less likely to support her, while 10 percent say it makes them more likely to do so.

A large majority of Republicans think she should be indicted and a large majority of Democrats think she shouldn’t. But even about 30 percent of Democrats think she should be indicted, and about 60 percent of independents think so as well. (ABC News, 7/11/2016)

July 12, 2016: Attorney General Loretta Lynch refuses to answer questions about the FBI’s Clinton investigation in a Congressional hearing.

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Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on July 12, 2016. (Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / the Associated Press)

Lynch speaks before the House Judiciary Committee several days after the Justice Department ended the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email usage as secretary of state. FBI Director James Comey answered questions about the investigation before a Congressional committee on July 7, 2016, but Lynch doesn’t follow suit. She says, “While I understand that this investigation has generated significant public interest, as attorney general, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the underlying facts of the investigation or the legal basis for the team’s recommendation.”

At one point, she says she can’t reveal details because she’s not familiar with them. “The director and I had very different roles in this investigation and, therefore, very different amounts of information about this investigation.” But at other times, she indicates she wouldn’t comment anyway. “It would not be appropriate in my role to discuss the specific facts and the law.”

After a meeting with Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton that many said was inappropriate, on July 1, 2016, Lynch distanced herself from the investigation but didn’t totally recuse herself from it.  (Politico, 7/12/2016)

July 12, 2016: Some FBI agents are disappointed over FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment.

Many agents are said to express “disappointment.” This according to a New York Post article, citing “sources close to the matter.”

One unnamed source says, “FBI agents believe there was an inside deal put in place after the Loretta Lynch/Bill Clinton tarmac meeting” on June 27, 2016. The article attributes quotes to both active and retired FBI agents critical of Comey, but it is not clear what this person’s job position is.

Another unnamed source, this one from the Justice Department, is “furious” with Comey, saying he’s “managed to piss off right and left.” (The New York Post, 7/12/2016)

All FBI agents taking part in the Clinton investigation are unable to comment because they have signed a non-disclosure agreements and are subject to lie detector tests to make sure they obey.

July 12, 2016: Congressional Republicans threatens subpoenas if the company that managed Clinton’s server fails to agree to employee interviews.

Treve Suazo (Credit: public domain)

Treve Suazo (Credit: public domain)

Representative Lamar Smith (R), the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson (R), the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, jointly author a letter to Treve Suazo, the CEO of Platte River Networks (PRN). PRN is the company that managed Clinton’s private server from June 2013 until late 2015.

The letter notes that Johnson’s committee has been seeking to interview some PRN employees about the management and security of Clinton’s server since August 2015, while Smith’s has been asking to do the same since January 2016, but PRN has refused all interview requests.

The letter then asks again, specifically requesting to interview the following PRN employees:

  • Treve Suazo
  • Brent Allshouse
  • David DeCamillis
  • Paul Combetta
  • Sam Hickler
  • Bill Thornton
  • Craig Papke

The letter requests a response by July 26, 2016. If PRN does not comply, the letter threatens the use of the “compulsory process.” (US Congress, 7/22/2016)

Apparently, PRN will still refuse to agree, because on August 22, 2016 these committees will issue subpoenas for the interviews.

July 13, 2016: The State Department will eventually release the thousands of deleted work-related Clinton emails discovered by the FBI.

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Mark Toner (Credit: public domain)

Department spokesperson Mark Toner says, “We will appropriately and with due diligence process any additional material that we receive from the FBI to identify work-related records and make them available to the public. That’s consistent with our legal obligations.” He says he doen’t know how many emails will be released, or when, but he vows to be “as transparent as we possibly can and try to give a timeframe. But at this point, we just don’t know.”

A day earlier, the FBI said it would return all the deleted emails to the State Department to determine whether they were subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said that investigators “discovered several thousand work-related” messages that were not included in the over 30,000 emails Clinton gave to the government in December 2014.  (The Hill, 7/13/2016)

July 18, 2016: Clinton’s lawyer insists Clinton’s use of a private server was allowed by policy, despite clear evidence it wasn’t.

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Judge Emmet Sullivan (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / National Law Journal

Clinton’s longtime personal lawyer David Kendall appears in court regarding Clinton’s email controversy for the first time since the issue became public in March 2015. He is opposing a request to have Clinton deposed in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by Judicial Watch.

The judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, has said publicly that Clinton violated government policy by doing official business on the private server. The State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, also concluded the same in a May 2016 report. Kendall nonetheless maintains that Clinton’s behavior “was clearly permitted and allowed” by policy. However, he admits that her server was never specifically approved by anyone at the State Department. He also argues that the reason Clinton set up and used a private email server for all her emails was “a matter of convenience.”

Sullivan doesn’t immediately decide whether Clinton should be deposed or not. However, Judicial Watch has also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel, and Sullivan does definitively state that at least Bentel “should be deposed.” (Politico, 07/18/2016)

July 21, 2016: The FBI begins sending thousands of recovered Clinton emails to the State Department.

According to Justice Department lawyers in a new court filing, on July 21, 2016, “the FBI began transferring the retrieved materials to the State Department, and will continue to transfer the retrieved materials to the State Department on a rolling basis.”

In late 2014, Clinton and her lawyers kept about 30,000 emails they deemed work related and deleted another 32,000 they deemed personal. The exact number of deleted emails that the FBI managed to recover or find from other sources has not been specified.

Some emails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were also found, since one of her email accounts was stored on the same clintonemail.com private server as Clinton’s emails, but the number of recovered Abedin emails is unknown.

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Photo captured from video of Jason Leopold’s immediate response to the results of his Clinton Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: Vice News)

The lawyers say they can’t estimate how long the transfer process will take. Once the State Department has the emails, those judged by the department to be work related will be made responsive to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Those deemed genuinely personal may never be made public. (Politico, 7/22/2016)

Vice News reporter Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA lawsuit demanding the release of all of Clinton’s work-related emails. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/6/2016) (Jason Leopold, Video 7/23/16)

July 21, 2016: The White House holds a high-level security meeting to discuss reports that the Russian government hacked into the DNC computer network.

The meeting takes place only one day before WikiLeaks publicly releases almost 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. However, when the Washington Post reports on this meeting a few days later, it will give no indication if US intelligence knew of the leak in advance and thus discussed that in the meeting or not. According to the Post, “Officials from various intelligence and defense agencies, including the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, attended the White House meeting…” (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)

July 22, 2016: More details of Clinton’s twenty-two “top secret” emails are revealed; nine were written by Clinton and most of the rest were written by her aide Jake Sullivan.

As part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, the State Department reveals more information about seven chains of 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. (Curiously, FBI Director James Comey mentioned on July 5, 2016 that there actually were eight “top secret” email chains, but the eighth chain is not mentioned by the department.)

The contents of the emails remain totally classified, but previous media reports indicate that most of them discussed approval for covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, and some of them may have identified CIA operatives working undercover.

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A sample of the Vaughn Index form submitted by the State Department, in response to the Vice News Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: public domain)

For the first time, the department reveals which years the emails were sent and who sent and received them. All the emails were from 2011 or 2012 – the State Department began to have a say in approving CIA drone strikes in 2011. Nine of the emails were written by Clinton, and the other thirteen were written by her aide Jake Sullivan. Two were also cc’d by Sullivan to her chief of staff Cheryl Mills and/or Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

The State Department disclosure comes in the form of a “Vaughn Index,” which is a document used by government departments in FOIA lawsuits to justify the withholding of information under various FOIA exemptions. Vaughn Indexes contain at least some information about the withheld text, to justify keeping it redacted, but this one does not. Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, says that according to government regulations, “State’s document does not fulfill the requirements for a Vaughn index.” (Vice News, 7/22/2016) (The Hill, 7/22/2016)

July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks releases almost 20,000 DNC emails as the first of a series of Clinton-related leaks.

WikiLeaks publicly releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 email attachments recently hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The emails are from seven DNC officials: Communications Director Luis Miranda (10,770 emails), National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3,797 emails), Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer (3,095 emails), Finance Director Zachary Allen (1,611 emails), Finance Director of Data and Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish (1,472 emails), Senior Advisor Andrew Wright (938 emails) and Northern California Finance Director Robert (Erik) Stowe (751 emails). The emails are from January 2015 until May 25, 2016.

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The seven DNC officials are left to right Luis Miranda (Credit: public domain), Jordan Kaplan (Credit: Facebook), Scott Comer (Credit: Linked In), Zachary Allen (Credit: Twitter), Daniel Parrish (Credit: Linked In), Andrew Wright (Credit: Linked In), Robert (Erik) Stowe (Credit: Linked In)

In announcing the release, WikiLeaks mentions this is “part one of our new Hillary Leaks series.” (WikiLeaks, 7/22/2016)

Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, mentioned in a June 2016 interview that other coming releases will relate to the Clinton Foundation and to Clinton’s emails (although it’s not clear how many there are or where and when they are from). It also was reported in June 2016 that the DNC computer network had been recently hacked, along with other political entities, such as the Clinton campaign. It also was suspected that the Russian government was behind the DNC hack. However, a previously unknown hacker named Guccifer 2.0 emerged and claimed to be behind the hack, and also claimed to have no ties to Russia. He furthermore claimed to have given thousands of documents to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has a policy of never revealing the sources of their leaked material, and has maintained that policy for this release.

July 22, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 takes credit for the DNC emails posted by WikiLeaks.

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Tweet posted by Guccifer 2.0 on July 22, 2016. (Credit: Guccifer 2.0 / Twitter)

Shortly after WikiLeaks publishes almost 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 takes credit. His website is not updated, but he writes at his Twitter account: “@wikileaks published #DNCHack docs I’d given them!!!” (Twitter, 6/22/2016)

He has previously posted many DNC files on his own website, starting on June 15, 2016. And on that same day, he claimed that he had given “thousands of files and mails” to WikiLeaks.

 

July 24, 2016—July 26, 2016: Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook suggests the Russian government is behind the release of DNC emails by WikiLeaks.

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Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook (Credit: Douglas Graham / Congressional Quarterly Roll Call Group)

On July 24, 2016, Mook says, “What’s disturbing about this entire situation is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC [Democratic National Committee], took all those emails, and are now leaking them out through these websites,” such as WikiLeaks. “It’s troubling that some experts are telling us this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping [Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump.”

Mook also apologizes for the content of some emails, which show the DNC had a bias in favor of Clinton and against Senator Bernie Sanders, despite DNC rules that it should be neutral in the Democratic primaries. (The Hill, 7/24/2016)

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort calls Mook’s comments “pure obfuscation.” He adds, “What they don’t want to talk about is what’s in those emails.” (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)

Two days later, Mook makes similar accusations about Russia. He also says, “I think the timing around our convention was not a coincidence.” WikiLeaks released 20,000 DNC emails on June 22, 2016, just three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention. (The Hill, 7/26/2016)

July 24, 2016: It is suggested that the Russian government has attempted to influence elections in other countries, sometimes by using front groups.

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Michael Vickers (Credit: BAE Systems, Inc.)

Michael Vickers, who was undersecretary of defense for intelligence from 2011 to 2015, says that if the Russian government is behind the recent leak of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by WikiLeaks, it would be unprecedented for the US. “What is really new here is the attempt to influence the politics of the United States. That is the problem.”

However, he also points out that there is evidence the Russians have attempted to influence elections in European countries close to their border. For instance, in 2004, a Russian hacker group calling itself Cyber Berkut claimed it hacked and disabled the electronic vote-counting system of the Ukraine central election commission three days before the presidential election. However, analysts believe the hack was actually done by the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU), one of two Russian military intelligence agencies accused of recently hacking the DNC. These analysts claim the GRU created Cyber Berkut as a false front to deflect responsibility. (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)

July 24, 2016: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), resigns after a WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.

Wasserman Schultz announces her resignation as chair of the Democratic National Committee on Sunday, July 24, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Just one day before the Democratic National Convention, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) announces she is resigning from her position as the chair of the DNC. This comes in response to WikiLeaks releasing 20,000 leaked emails from a recent hack of the DNC. The New York Times says that the emails “showed party officials conspiring to sabotage the [presidential] campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.”

Earlier in the day, Sanders called the situation an “outrage” and called for Wasserman Schultz to step down. She announced her resignation after a private meeting with Clinton’s senior aides. The Times comments that even prior to the email leak, “Ms. Wasserman Schultz has faced a flurry of negative stories during her five-year tenure as the committee’s chairwoman… but she had resisted calls for her to quit.”

The Times also reports: “The breach of the Democratic committee’s emails… offered undeniable evidence of what Mr. Sanders’s supporters had complained about for much of the senator’s contentious primary contest with Mrs. Clinton: that the party was effectively an arm of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.”

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), replaces Wasserman Schultz as interim chair through the end of the November 2016 election. (The New York Times, 7/24/2016)

July 25, 2016: Democratic Party officials believe recent hacks are “far more widespread than initially thought.”

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Sample of DNC spreadsheet released by Wikileaks, titled “Boards and Commissions” listing generous DNC donors who are being considered for appointments to various Boards and Commissions. Donor email addresses and phone numbers were blacked out by thompsontimeline. (Credit: Wikileaks)

Yahoo News reports about the series of hacking attacks targeting the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Clinton campaign, and other US political targets starting in the summer of 2015 and continuing until at least June 2016. “Two sources familiar with the [DNC] breach said that the hackers’ reach was far more widespread than initially thought and includes personal data about big party contributors and internal ‘vetting’ evaluations that include embarrassing comments about their business dealings (as well as gossipy internal emails about the private affairs of DNC staffers). … Party officials are bracing for more damaging document dumps after Labor Day [September 7, 2016]. ‘They’re having to do serious damage control with the donors right now,’ said a party official familiar with the matter.”

Additionally, Yahoo News mentions, “There are also signs that the hackers have penetrated the personal email of some Clinton campaign staffers — at least those who were in communication with senior DNC staff members.” (Yahoo News, 7/25/2016)

July 25, 2016: Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley suggests the Russian government wants to affect the US presidential election with hacking.

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Bill Daley (Credit: Pinterest)

Daley says, “I don’t think anybody would be surprised if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would try to affect the election. That’s like the old ‘Casablanca’ — there’s gambling in the casino. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Period. I think anybody who dismisses that is living in fairy land here.”

He also calls the possibility that the Russian government was behind the hack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails “pretty frightening.”

He was White House chief of staff from 2011 to 2012. (The Washington Post, 7/25/2016)

July 25, 2016: The FBI formally acknowledges it is investigating the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack.

The FBI has been investigating the hack of the DNC and related political entities for months. For instance, the FBI warned the Clinton campaign they were the target of hacking attacks in March 2016. However, this is the first public admission of an investigation. An FBI spokesperson says the bureau will “investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.” This announcement comes three days after WikiLeaks publicly posted almost 20,000 emails from the DNC.

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Emblem of the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU) (Credit: public domain)

The Washington Post reports that according to unnamed ” individuals familiar with the investigation,” the FBI is focusing on the Russian military intelligence agency, known as the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije or GRU, and looking into if it was responsible for giving the emails to WikiLeaks. However, it is believed that the Russian Federal Security Service, known as the Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB, broke into the DNC’s computers as well.

The FBI wants to determine with certainty whether the Russian government passed the emails to WikiLeaks. This is likely to involve other US intelligence agencies, such as the NSA and the CIA, which potentially could intercept communications or gather intelligence overseas.

If it is definitively proven that the Russians are responsible, then the US would have to consider what to do next. The Post comments, ” Responses could range from a diplomatic wrist slap or warning to countermeasures.” In 2014, Sony Pictures was hacked, and there were reports that the government of North Korea was responsible. The US government imposed economic sanctions on North Korea in response. President Obama also signed an executive order enabling US officials to impose economic sanctions in response to significant hacking attacks. (The Washington Post, 7/25/2016)

July 25, 2016: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says the Russians could be “weaponizing information” with leaks of hacked emails.

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Former CIA director Michael Hayden (Credit: Luis M. Alvarez / The Associated Press)

Hayden says that if the Russian government is behind the recent leaks of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by WikiLeaks, this would mean “they’re clearly taking their game to another level. It would be weaponizing information. You don’t want a foreign power affecting your election. We have laws against that.”

Hayden was appointed head of the NSA by President Bill Clinton and then he was later appointed head of the CIA by President George W. Bush. (The Washington Post, 7/25/2016)

July 25, 2016: WikiLeaks discourages suggestions that the Russian government is behind its release of DNC emails.

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Wikileaks cartoon that accompanied the DNC documents release. (Credit: Latoff / Wikileaks)

In an interview with NBC News, Wikileaks leader Julian Assange won’t say who gave WikiLeaks the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails they have recently made public, as the group has a policy to never reveal their sources.

However, Assange discourages the widespread speculation that the emails come from hackers linked to the Russian government. Assange suggests that the DNC’s security was so weak that it could have been hacked by multiple groups. He also insists, “The emails that we have released are different sets of documents to the documents of those [that] people have analyzed.”

A hacker or hacking group going by the name of Guccifer 2.0 claims to have given the emails to WikiLeaks, but WikiLeaks has not confirmed this.

A WikiLeaks representative also comments, “Our publication of leaked DNC emails and the many DNC hacks over the last two years are separate incidents and should not be conflated.” (The Daily Beast, 7/26/2016)

July 26, 2016—July 28, 2016: Russia denies any role in hacking the DNC’s emails and claims to be neutral in the US presidential election.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Credit: public domain)

On July 26, 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly dismisses suggestions that the Russian government could have been behind the hacks that led to the public release of 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails.  He says, “I don’t want to use four-letter words.”  (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

Two days later, Russian government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says accusations of Russian involvement in the hacking of the emails border on “total stupidity” and are motivated by anti-Russian sentiment. “As regards these [email] batches, that is not our headache. We never poke our noses into others’ affairs and we really don’t like it when people try to poke their nose into ours. … The Americans need to get to the bottom of what these emails are themselves and find out what it’s all about.”

Peskov also says Russia won’t change what he claims has been a neutral stance on the US 2016 presidential election. “We know perfectly well that candidates in the heat of a preelection struggle say one thing, but that later, when under the weight of responsibility, their rhetoric becomes more balanced.”

Some US analysts claim that the Russian media, which is heavily influenced by the Russian government, has shown a clear tilt in favor of Trump. (Reuters, 7/28/2016)

July 26, 2016: WikiLeaks head Julian Assange says WikiLeaks might release “a lot more material” relevant to the US presidential campaign.

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CNN’s Matthew Chance interviews Julian Assange over a video link on July 26, 2016. (Credit: CNN, Moscow)

Assange is vague on details about future releases. He is asked by CNN about reports that the Russian government might be behind the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer network. WikiLeaks has a policy of never revealing its sources, and Assange maintains that policy by refusing to confirm or deny anything. He says, “Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment. Some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are.”

He additionally says that Clinton and other Democratic officials are using the specter of Russian involvement to distract from the content of the emails. “It raises questions about the natural instincts of Clinton that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, et cetera. Because if she does that while in government, it could lead to problems.” (CNN, 7/27/2016)

July 26, 2016: US intelligence agencies have “high confidence” that the Russian government is behind the hack of DNC emails.

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Emblem of the Russian Federal Security Service (Credit: public domain)

The New York Times claims this is according to unnamed “federal officials who have been briefed on the evidence.” But these officials are uncertain if the hack is part of “fairly routine cyberespionage” or part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 US presidential election. The DNC (Democratic National Committee) emails were  published by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, causing political turmoil for Democrats and resulting in the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from her position as DNC chair.

The federal investigation, involving the FBI and other intelligence agencies began in April 2016, when the hack was first detected. It has concluded that the Russian Federal Security Service (Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB) entered the DNC’s computer network in the summer of 2015. (This corresponds with previous reports of a hacking by a Russian group known as Cozy Bear or APT 29.) The Rusian Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije or GRU) independently penetrated the same network later. (This corresponds with previous reports of a hacking by a Russian group known as Fancy Bear or APT 28.) Investigators believe the GRU has been playing a larger role in publicly releasing the emails.

The Times says the intelligence community’s conclusion puts pressure on President Obama to publicly accuse Russia of orchestrating the hacking, which could negatively impact the diplomatic relationship between the US and Russia in general. (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

July 26, 2016: President Obama suggests Russians could be behind the hack that led to the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.

President Obama is asked if Russia could be behind hacks that led to 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails getting released by WikiLeaks. He says the FBI is still investigating but also “experts have attributed this to the Russians.”

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Obama (left) is interviewed by Today’s Savannah Guthrie on July 26, 2016. (Credit: NBC)

He adds, “What we do know is is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that — I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”

Asked if he’s suggesting that Russian leader Vladimir Putin could be motivated to help Trump win the November 2016 election, Obama replies, “I am basing this on what Mr. Trump himself has said. And I think that — Trump’s gotten pretty favorable coverage­­­ — back in Russia.” (Politico, 7/26/2016)

He stops stopped short of accusing Russia of trying to manipulate the election, but says “anything’s possible.” He also claims that “on a regular basis, [the Russians] try to influence elections in Europe.” (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

July 26, 2016: A cybersecurity group claims to have new evidence that Guccifer 2.0 is actually a team of Russian hackers.

Guccifer 2.0 is a hacker who claims he broke into the Democratic National Committtee (DNC) computer network and then gave the emails he found to WikiLeaks. He also claims to be an East European with no connection to Russia.

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Threat Connect Logo (Credit: public domain)

However, the cybersecurity research group ThreatConnect claims to have new evidence linking Guccifer 2.0 to an Internet server in Russia and to a digital address that has been linked to previous Russian online scams. They conclude that Guccifer 2.0 is actually an “apparition created under a hasty Russian [denial and deception] campaign” to influence political events in the US.

Their report concludes, “Maintaining a ruse of this nature within both the physical and virtual domains requires believable and verifiable events which do not contradict one another. That is not the case here.” For instance, Guccifer 2.0 claims to have broken into the DNC network in the summer of 2015 using a software flaw that didn’t exist until December 2015.

Furthermore, the Guccier 2.0 entity is “a Russia-controlled platform that can act as a censored hacktivist. Moscow determines what Guccifer 2.0 shares and thus can attempt to selectively impact media coverage, and potentially the election, in a way that ultimately benefits their national objectives.” (The Daily Beast, 7/26/2016)

 

July 27, 2016: Trump says he hopes Russia or someone else has Clinton’s deleted emails; he wants them given to the FBI.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump National Doral, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump National Doral on July 27, 2016, in Tampa, Florida. (Credit: Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)

In a press conference, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says about Russia and Clinton’s emails, “By the way, if they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted.”

He also addresses the country directly: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Trump is then asked by NBC News reporter Katy Tur, “Do you have any qualms about asking a foreign government, Russia, China, anybody, to interfere, to hack into a system of anybody’s in this country?”

He replies, “It’s up to the president. Let the president talk to them. Look, here’s the problem, here’s the problem, Katy. He has no respect-”

Tur interrupts him to say, “You said, ‘I welcome them to find those 30,000 emails-‘”

But Trump then interrupts her to say, “Well, they probably have them. I’d like to have them released.”

Tur asks, “Does that not give you pause?”

He replies, “Nope, gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them.”

Later in the day, Trump posts an additional comment on Twitter: “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”

Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan issues a critical statement in response to Trump’s comments: “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.” (Talkingpointsmemo.com, 7/27/2016)

Also later in the day, Trump spokesperson Jason Miller says that “clearly saying” Russia should share emails with the FBI. “To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s email today.” (The Hill, 7/27/2016)

The next day, Trump calls the suggestion that Russia is trying to help him by leaking the emails is a “joke.” He also says that when he said he hoped Russian hackers found Clinton’s emails and shared them with the FBI,  he was only “being sarcastic.” (The Hill, 7/28/2016)

July 27, 2016: Ex-CIA head Panetta questions Trump’s loyalty after Trump asks Russia to help him win election.

Leon Panetta (Credit: ChipSomodevilla / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Leon Panetta (Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta criticizes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his recent comments encouraging the Russian government to find and leak Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from when she was secretary of state.

Panetta says, “You have a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics. I think that’s beyond the pale… he is truly not qualified to be president of the United States.”

Panetta served as both CIA director and defense secretary under President Obama. His comments come on the same day he gives a speech to support Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. (Raw Story, 7/27/2016)

July 27, 2016: US intelligence hasn’t found proof that the Russian government is responsible for WikiLeaks getting recently hacked emails.

The Washington Post reports that “Intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an issue under investigation, said there is little doubt that agents of the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee [DNC], and the White House was informed months ago of [Russia’s] culpability.” However, days after WikiLeaks posted almost 20,000 DNC emails, the Post adds, “The intelligence community, the officials said, has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks.”

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Former NSA director Keith Alexander, testifying before Congress in 2013. (Credit: The Associated Press)

One unnamed US official says, “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none.”

Former NSA Director Keith Alexander says, “Determining with confidence who was behind it — if the Russians were the hackers, seeing them pass that data to WikiLeaks — is probably much more difficult than attributing it to the initial hacker. That’s a tough one — especially because there are different ways of passing that information, not all electronic.”

Furthermore, even if Russia is behind the leaks to WikiLeaks, the motivation is unclear. A key question is if Russia is attempting to influence the November 2016 US presidential election. Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and the CIA, states, “Frankly, I don’t think they’re motivated by thinking they can affect the election itself.” He thinks the Russians may be flexing their muscles “to demonstrate that they can — not necessarily to make [Donald] Trump win or Hillary [Clinton] lose.”

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Leo Taddeo (Credit: Twitter)

Leo Taddeo, a former FBI agent who worked with cybersecurity operations, says, “This is not [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin trying to help Trump. I think they were messaging Hillary Clinton, telling her that they can get in the way of her election if she doesn’t show some flexibility in her position toward them.”

Representative Adam Schiff (D) believes that if Russia is ultimately responsible, the Obama administration “should make it known publicly and forcefully. Even if they’re not able to lay out the evidence because it would disclose sources and methods, they should make the attribution.” (The Washington Post, 7/27/2016)

July 28, 2016: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper shows reluctance to blame Russia for recent hacks on US political entities.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Credit: public domain)

Clapper says the US government is not “quite ready yet” to “make a public call” about who is responsible for the hacking on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer network that resulted in almost 20,000 emails being released by WikiLeaks. However, he hints that one of “the usual suspects” is likely to blame. He also says, “We don’t know enough [yet] to … ascribe a motivation, regardless of who it may have been.”

Yahoo News reports that there is a vigorous debate inside the Obama administration about whether to publicly blame the Russian government for the hacking. One unnamed senior law enforcement official says the Russians are “most probably” involved, but investigation is ongoing.

Clapper is said to be amongst a faction who is resisting publicly blaming the Russians, since it is the kind of activity that intelligence agencies regularly engage in, including the US at times. Clapper also publicly comments, “[I’m] taken aback a bit by … the hyperventilation over this,” He adds in a sarcastic tone, “I’m shocked somebody did some hacking. That’s never happened before.” (Yahoo News, 7/29/2016)

July 28, 2016: Whistleblower Edward Snowden criticizes WikiLeaks for its willingness to compromise people’s privacy.

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Edward Snowden (Credit: Digital Trends)

He writes on Twitter, “Democratizing information has never been more vital, and WikiLeaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.” Snowden was an NSA contractor, but he has been hiding in Russia to avoid prosecution after exposing illegal surveillance practices by the US government.

On June 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. But they didn’t redact names, social security numbers, credit card information, or other personal data. (Raw Story, 7/28/2016)

Later on July 28, 2016, WikiLeaks replies on Twitter with the comment: “@Snowden Opportunism won’t earn you a pardon from Clinton & curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows.”

When Snowden leaked government documents, he gave them to reporters who made some redactions. Whereas WikiLeaks has seemingly made no redactions at all, as Snowden has pointed out. (The Washington Post, 7/28/2016)

July 31, 2016: Clinton continues to maintain that none of her emails contained classified information when they were sent.

Clinton holds a press conference on August 5, 2016 and explains how she may have "short-circuited" during her interview with Chris Wallace. (Credit: Fox News)

Clinton holds a press conference on August 5, 2016 and explains how she may have “short-circuited” during her interview with Chris Wallace a few days earlier. (Credit: Fox News)

In a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, she says, “There were discussions and decisions made to classify retroactively certain emails.” She also claims that FBI Director James “Comey said my answers were truthful and consistent,” with what she said in the past.

She adds, “I was communicating with over 300 people in my emails. They certainly did not believe and had no reason to believe what they were sending was classified.” (The Hill, 7/31/2016)

However, on July 5, 2016, Comey clearly stated, “From the group of 30,000 [Clinton] emails returned to the State Department in 2014, 110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

Clinton’s comments are heavily criticized in the media. So five days later, on August 5, 2016, she says she may have “short circuited” and she and Wallace might have been “talking past each other.” (Fox News, 8/5/2016)